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Weapon of Choice, Latin

December 29, 2015 , ,



When I was a very young child my grandparents lived on a farm in Arkansas. My grandpa taught me to shoot his rifle when I was not able to lift it…..he helped me. I also got to drive the tractor and his Lincoln…because he helped me. This was my grandpa’s way of indulging me. He gave me power and told me I was doing it myself. My grandmother had no such philosophy, but she was not always with us.  I remember when I shot the target with the rifle he called me Annie Oakley, and I think I had some fringe outfit convince others.  They left the farm and I never again shot a gun after the age of about 7.  It was mostly for him, so I never missed it.

I switched to archery with a target in the side yard of my house in Pittsburgh.  When I saw that house in recent years I was shocked at how small that side yard actually was.  I was also an archer at summer camp.  When I moved to Venezuela at age 13 the bow and arrows stayed behind in Pennsylvania.  It was then that I took up what would become my future weapon of choice, languages.  I learned Spanish pretty quickly. I studied Latin in high school which is still the very best way to talk about certain things, like botany, anatomy, or the law.  Latin also helps one make good guesses in French and Italian.  Use of Latin implies knowledge of history and authority, even if there is none.  Referring to body parts with correct Latin nomenclature makes people think you are a doctor.  My dad started teaching me to memorize long Latin names of animals in text books when I was very young, around the same time my grandpa taught me to shoot a gun. Different strokes, I guess.

My favorite Latin to study at this moment is the difference between  actus reus  and mens rea.    This is the difference between the external elements of a crime, and the guilty mind that perpetrated it.  This tricky kind of guilt must be in play when entrapment is used to arrest people.  It must be the reason that on duty cops are not being charged for shooting deaths.  A jury can’t agree that the actus reus was a result of intentional mens rea.  Now that I know what the phrases mean I see this is a very delicate balance, difficult to prove and even more tricky for a jury to decide.  It does help me to understand how some of the recent verdicts came to be. I think this is a subject that will come up frequently in the future based our current sociological problems.  Caveat emptor, gentle reader.

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I love your stories of you growing up. I think the rifle is something most kids would have loved to have tried– even with help. It’s so grown up and plus dressed as Annie Oakley– it would be so fun….


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

January 3, 2016

1 notes

  1. Slipping Standards of American Justice | mermaidcamp reblogged this and added:

    […] agencies.  The new sliding scale introduced for the unprecedented Hillary e mail case is all about intent.  Now it is more important to decide if the entity meant do violate laws rather than to know if […]


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